• Jonathan Bloom writes about why we waste food, why it matters and what we can do about it. This is his blog.

Baltimore Bound

Today, I’m headed to Baltimore to give a talk at the Enoch Pratt Free Library (7pm). I’m excited for the chance to spread the word on food waste. If you find yourself near Charm City and looking to hear all about it, come on down!

Thanks to the United Way of Central Maryland, Wesleyan University and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future for making tonight’s event possible. I will try my best to avoid references to The Wire.

March 5, 2012 | Posted in Personal | Comments closed

On (Not) Wasting Meat

This piece of mine ran yesterday on Grist. You could call it preachy, but, hey, I think it’s warranted. Let me know what you think.

This is not about the guilt-ridden question: Should I eat meat? That personal dilemma has already been debated thoroughly on Grist and elsewhere. Instead, here’s another dose of angst for us meat eaters, just in case we needed one:  If we’re going to condone the killing of animals, the least we can do is eat all of the resulting meat.

You’re welcome.

When I do readings for my book, American Wasteland, I begin by talking about the ethical shortcomings of wasting food. Primarily, there’s the idea that someone would have loved to eat the foods that we squander. Wasting food devalues the suffering of millions in America and a billion worldwide who don’t get enough to eat. These days, 15 percent of Americans[PDF] are food insecure, or struggle to find enough to eat. And food banks and hungry people have a hard time getting sufficient protein, especially the kind not found inside a tin can or a cylinder of casing.

Wasting meat raises the stakes to create an ethical double whammy. Squandering animal protein — and some would include offal here — debases our quotidian killing of animals. As Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Emory Center for Ethics, told me: “To treat food cavalierly leads to a lack of appreciation of the importance of food, of the fact that some go without it, of the suffering of animals that the carnivores among us are willing to tolerate to eat our food.”

Ideally, the growing number of hungry people would motivate us to treasure our edibles — meat especially — at all stages of the food chain. But, contrary to what we claim, we do not. Globally, at least one-third of all food isn’t consumed [PDF]. Domestically, that figure jumps to about 40 percent. And zooming in further, we squander about 25 percent of the food we bring into our homes.* It seems that in the cold calculus of everyday life, ethics aren’t all that motivating. Read More »

March 2, 2012 | Posted in Farm, Household | Comments closed

Agribusiness Thinking About Waste?

It’s encouraging to see anyone in agriculture talking about reducing waste. It’s especially so when they’re part of Big Ag. For example, a speaker at the Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum raising the flag against waste.

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Also, yesterday and today I’ve been at the Shared Tables Symposium at UNC and Duke. I’ve been heartened to hear several speakers, including the great food writer Tom Philpott, noting the importance of reducing waste throughout the food chain.

Based on what I’m seeing and hearing, I do think that efficiency will become a major buzzword in the years ahead as we stare down the prospect of feeding the estimated 9 billion global citizens of 2050.

February 29, 2012 | Posted in Farm | Comments closed

The Dreaded Hair(s)

Katy over at Non-Consumer Advocate posted an interesting question this morning: What do you do with takeout food when you find a hair in it?

In her case, it wasn’t just a single one, but a “nest of hair.” The restaurant refunded her money, but the food remained, prompting that question.

How we approach the haired-upon food is an individual decision, just like the 5-second rule. From comments on the post, the consensus seems to be that the nest factor crosses the ‘gag line.’

Hopefully, we can keep the be-fouled food out of the landfill, by composting some or feeding the family pet. Washing the food, first, can’t hurt.

And I think there may be a way to salvage the meat, which is much worse to waste, given its ethical and carbon footprint, with a bacteria- and ickyness-killing boil.

What’s your take?

February 27, 2012 | Posted in Repurposing, Restaurant | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

How am I just hearing about Fenugreen? Paper that makes produce keep longer using just a mix of herbs? Sounds great!

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At the behest of @CompostCab, I was trying to think up compost slogans (found with the #WhyCompost hash tag). But after reading about how a California state prison and LEGOLAND are both vermicomposting, I’ve got a few new ones:

Even You, Con, Compost!

LEGOLAND: ALLCAPS and All Compost

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So many righteous things colliding here: New Belgium Brewing Co., Boulder, biking and food rescue. The resulting bike food rescue by Boulder Food Rescue is a fabulous story. Also, this is why Boulder rocks.

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In a related note, computer scientists interested in food redistribution will geek out over this paper, written by BFR founder Caleb Phillips.

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Finally, I am a BlogHer featured blogger this coming week! So I can now say I was:

February 24, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Food Recovery | Comments closed

Offal Wasteful?

After watching this video love letter to offal, you might say today’s culinary system is missing an entire stream of animal protein. Or you might say, ‘Gross!’

What say you?

(Oh, and don’t miss the ending.)

February 22, 2012 | Posted in Food Safety, Restaurant | Comments closed

Food Waste Reduction Is So Hot Right Now!

Wondering what you should be keeping your eye on this year? Well, marketing communications firm JWT has you covered with their 100 Things to Watch in 2012.

Why am I telling you this? Why, because “Curbing Food Waste” made that list. See for yourself in their neat slide show (done in alphabetical order–see #16). Also encouraging–”Fuel from Waste” (#26) made the cut.

It’s an interesting list and makes for some fun perusing (Silence is going to be big this year–just not in my two kid household!). Anyway, it’s encouraging that JWT chose curbing food waste, not just diverting it from landfill.

Not surprisingly, “Curbing Food Waste” is also an answer for the specific JWT question of What’s Cooking? in 2012. And if you’re super busy, why did you read this much of the post? here’s the square root of the main list–the Top 10 Trends.

In related news, they also interviewed yours truly for this project…

February 20, 2012 | Posted in Energy, Environment | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

The real March Madness–Recyclemania–is now under way. I’m especially fond of the “Waste Minimization” category, as that’s kind of the point.

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It’s hard not to enjoy this neat animated illustration of Michael Pollan’s food rules. And I’m sure they used that food featured in the video, right?

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I’m so excited about Halfsies, the restaurant solution for waste and overeating, for getting such great exposure in Forbes!

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This piece on food waste in Spain has a detailed breakdown on waste by sector. Not entirely sure about some of those figures, but it’s encouraging to have a European MP talking about wasted food.

February 17, 2012 | Posted in Friday Buffet, Restaurant | Comments closed

Flash Freezing

Let me get this straight–before last week, all perishable food bought in the UK carried the advice to ‘freeze food on day of purchase?!’ Seriously?

Happily, that is no longer the case at the major British chain Sainsbury’s, as they’ve backed off that uber-cautious advice. With the backing of the waste-reduction crew at WRAP, Sainsbury’s labels now look like this:

Here’s Beth Hart, Sainsbury’s head of product technology for fresh and frozen:

There is no food safety reason why it cannot be frozen at any point prior to the use-by date. As one customer pointed out to me while discussing the previous labelling, ‘How does the product know which day I purchased it on?’

The news has been widely reported, with the story appearing in the BBC (best headline), The Telegraph, and The Guardian. But I wish someone was asking how that silly bit of original advice existed for so long.

Anyway, while we’re on the subject, here are some useful frozen food tips, courtesy of Love Food Hate Waste:

  • Fruit: slice and freeze lemons then use them straight from the fridge in iced drinks. Frozen grapes and strawberries also make novel ice cubes which also taste great.
  • Potatoes: simply parboil (boil for about 5 mins) and freeze them for later. When you want them thaw overnight and roast the next day. Mashed potato also freezes well.
  • Milk: if you know you’re not going to use milk before the date freeze it. and then when you need some milk thaw in the fridge. Plastic containers are okay for freezing milk in, but the milk will expand so pour out a small amount (for a cup of tea for example) to allow for this, shake well before using
  • Cheese: try grating Cheddar cheese before freezing and use as toppings on pizza or shepherd’s pie from frozen. Stilton can be frozen without grating and is just as good as fresh!
  • Leftover roast meat: such as chicken and lamb. Thaw in the fridge and use as normal, in a risotto or curry.
  • Bread: use straight from frozen as toast or make sandwiches for work – by lunchtime they’ll be defrosted. Bang the loaf on the work surface before putting it in the freezer to help the frozen slices come apart more easily.
February 15, 2012 | Posted in International, Supermarket | Comments closed

Teaching About Waste

There’s an increasing attention being paid to waste of all kinds. That’s why a waste curriculum aimed at the most-important-to-reach Americans (from a waste-generating standpoint) is key.

Anyone looking to teach elementary school students about waste should say ‘Thanks, Ohio!’ And then turn to The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Windows on Waste curriculum.

It includes information on food waste, but is by no means focused on it. Turn to page 144 for some handy composting education materials. And the message of waste reduction is included, too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to say ‘YIMBY!’ (a positive take on NIMBY, covered in the curriculum).

February 13, 2012 | Posted in School, Waste Stream | Comments closed
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